Apple’s Shortcuts app is already a very powerful tool for automating stuff on your iPhone and iPad, and for creating your own push-button mini-apps. But what if it also could use the deep tools that Apple builds into iOS for app developers? What if Shortcuts could use Face ID, or analyze your photos using iOS’ crazy-powerful machine learning? Or if you could use the OCR to pull text out of photos, all inside Shortcuts?
Thats what Toolbox Pro does. It opens up many of Apple’s amazing under-the-hood technologies, and lets you use them just by dragging a new step into your Shortcuts workflows. Let’s see what it can do.
How does Toolbox Pro work?
The possibilities of Toolbox Pro, when combined with the power and ease of use of Shortcuts, seem almost endless. Once you install the app, you can access all of the new steps right there inside the Shortcuts app itself. To get the full set of steps, you must unlock the full version with an in-app purchase that runs $5.99. The free version offers 22 tools. The full version packs more than 60.
What can it do?
Here’s a list of some of my favorite actions and example shortcuts from Toolbox Pro.
- Convert music links between services (Spotify, Apple Music, etc.)
- Get text from images
- Create interactive preview pages
- Scan documents
- Get colors from an image
- Detect faces, and generate “interest” heat maps from photos.
- Show an image preview on a live map
- Create a photo collage
- Read and write NFC tags
- Scan text from an image straight to the Drafts app
- Bulk edit dates in reminders
- Create a packing list
Those are just a few of the built-in examples. And with just a few moments spent with the app, I’m sure you can come up with better ones.
iOS automation: Better than on Mac?
Between Toolbox Pro, and the new tools in iOS 13 that let developers link their apps with other apps via Shortcuts, automation on iOS is now arguably better than it is on the Mac. You might be able to access more powerful automation on the Mac, but it requires that you learn at least some basic coding skills. On iOS, with Shortcuts, it’s all just drag-and-drop.
And one more crazy feature: Global variables. You can now store data and make it accessible between all your shortcuts. It is encrypted locally, and shared using iCloud Drive. Not only does this let you share data between shortcuts, but also between different devices. Your iPhone pedometer’s step count could be made available on your iPad, for example.
Essential for any Shortcuts user
I’m very excited by this release. I use the Shortcuts app all the time, and not just because I can. Pretty much all of my shortcuts take care of tedious busywork that would otherwise waste my time. And Toolbox Pro is going to take this to a new level. It’s utterly essential for any Shortcuts user.
Price: Free with $5.99 in-app purchase
Download: Toolbox Pro from the App Store (iOS)